Bored of hearing lots of negative things about young people and not much else? We hear ya.
Young people are doing A LOT more than they are being given credit for during this pandemic. And we’ve got the receipts to show that. As part of our new series “Young and Fighting Coronavirus” we’ve spoken to three young healthcare workers about what it’s like as a young person on the frontline.
Last week, we spoke to Caitlin to find out what it’s like as a young nurse and how Coronavirus has impacted her.
Hi Caitlin! Tell us a bit about what your role is
I work in the Addenbrooks Cambridge University Hospital as a staff nurse. I qualified in August 2019 so I’m fairly new.
What made you want to get into nursing?
I always knew that I wanted to do something with people; when I was young I did a lot of volunteering with individuals with brain injuries. This experience consolidated the fact that I wanted to help people and go into emergency nursing. I wanted the variety of having to think on your feet which you experience in emergency nursing.
We have lots of different areas within A&E (Accident and Emergency), such as minor injuries and ambulance bays. We also have “front door” which is where people have been able to bring themselves into hospital and three separate treatment areas. As a nurse when I come in the morning I get allocated a section and my days would vary depending on which of the areas I was assigned to.
How have things changed for you since Covid-19?
Now, we have two emergency departments. So we have green areas and red areas. The green areas are for those with no symptoms of Covid-19 or people who haven’t had any contact with anyone who has Covid-19 . The red areas are for people with symptoms of Covid-19, even if they are really unlikely to have it but there’s still a small chance.
These two sections mirror each other- so you have waiting areas, treatment areas, and resource areas. We’ve had to create a whole new area for those who need aerosol generating procedures (a procedure resulting in respiratory droplets increasing risk of infection to staff.) We have to make sure patients with symptoms potentially indicating Covid are in a red area.
I’d only been working for five or six months, and I’d already gotten used to the old ways of doing things and I’ve had to adjust. There are some nurses I work with who have been there for years having to get used to these new processes as well.
Healthcare staff like yourself are on the front line and therefore more vulnerable to getting ill. How does this make you feel? Do you think about it a lot?
I think it definitely causes some anxiety, especially knowing it’s something I could bring home to the people I live with, and it’s hard not seeing my family. Even when the lockdown starts to wind down I probably won’t see them. Obviously the hospital protects us in every way they can, but there is only so much they can do in terms of protecting us with a lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) and being understaffed.
There’s staff who suffer from asthma or other conditions, or live with vulnerable people. We try to keep them protected and limit them working in the red areas where we are treating covid patients- but it means there’s even fewer staff who can go between both areas and are much more likely to be exposed more to the virus.
There’s been a lot of negative coverage about young people, making it look like young people weren’t taking this situation seriously. How did that make you feel, knowing what you do as a young person?
I think it’s a real mix. There are some young people who didn’t take it as seriously, as statistically, they are less vulnerable to catching it- or that’s how it was portrayed. But a lot of the older generation just believed that the rules didn’t apply to them as well from my point of view. Seeing the amount of patients, it’s very real to me that people are dying from this and this is really serious.
I think people forget that it’s about everyone around them, not just them. They might not catch it but they can pass it onto someone’s mum or dad. There’s lots of consequences.
I live quite near the hospital in a flat and I can see people going out and socialising- which we shouldn’t be doing. There’s lots of stuff I’d love to do but it’s important to listen to those who know best and make sure we’re all doing our bit to “flatten the curve”.
The support I get from my work colleagues is really important, but for young people generally it feels like there’s an increased mental health crisis. A lot of people’s university offers hang on A levels that will be decided by teachers now. It’s been quite hard on young people. There are also the issues facing older people as well; being furloughed and struggling financially. A lot of people have had opportunities and stability taken away from them.
What are you hopeful for once all this is over?
I think the one thing that has been really interesting is that there’s been a real decrease in people coming to A&E because it’s no longer viewed as essential. A&E departments are often overrun with health issues that aren’t really A&E related. I hope that people will visit A&E when they should.
I also think this has brought people together as a community and I’ve been better at staying in touch with people, though not through physical means. I think that valuing and maintaining positive relationships with others will be nice to take away when this is over.
Thanks for reading our article! We know young people’s opinions matter and really appreciate everyone who reads us.